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International Women's Day 2011

TrustLaw Women, Thomson Reuters and Reuters mark the centenary

  • To mark #IWD I'll be posting a selection of pictures from Reuters photographers of women around the world.
  • Bringing International Women's Day to university

  • Employees of Grameen Bank form a human chain in front of their central office after a court upheld an order removing Nobel laurate Muhammad Yunus as head of the microlending bank he founded, in Dhaka March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

  • From Riet Groenen, Gender Advisor, Pacific Sub-Regional Office, UNFPA

    Every year, more than half a million women and girls die from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth. More than 80 per cent of maternal deaths worldwide are due to five causes: haemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labour and hypertensive disease during pregnancy. While these are the direct causes of maternal death, unavailable, inaccessible, unacceptable, or poor quality health care is fundamentally responsible. Research has shown that about four out of five maternal deaths could be averted if women had access to essential maternity and basic health-care services. Of all health indicators, maternal mortality ratios show one of the greatest gaps between rich and poor countries. The lifetime risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth in Niger is about 1 in 7, compared to 1 in 48,000 in Ireland. In Millennium Development Goal 5, the international community committed to reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Yet figures released in a recent UN report show only limited progress in making motherhood safer, especially in the poorest countries.

    With trained health-care staff, properly equipped primary health-care and emergency facilities, and adequate medicines and supplies, most maternal mortality and morbidity could be prevented. But deeper, underlying causes keep the goal of safe motherhood out of reach for many developing countries. Most of these causes stem from the subordinate position of women. Many are unable to negotiate contraceptive use with their husbands or partners; nor do they demand the right to share in decision-making that affects their lives. This lack of power may be magnified in the face of domestic violence. Furthermore, the meager budgets allotted for sexual and reproductive health care are rarely challenged. Poverty, gender discrimination, social exclusion and political insecurity all serve to deepen and solidify the direct and underlying causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. They are further exacerbated by a lack of global commitment to respond to women’s needs and to improve their status.

    Ultimately, reducing the toll of maternal mortality and morbidity on women, girls and their families requires a human rights-based approach, with gender equality and cultural sensitivity at its core. An enabling environment for women’s and children’s rights is free from violence. This requires not just protection from abuse, exploitation, discrimination and violence, but also implies a decent standard of living, quality education, equal participation in the home, community and political life, and greater involvement of men in the care of women and children. Women who are empowered, in both their productive and reproductive roles, tend to have a positive impact on their families, including their children. This empowerment can have a ripple effect across generations. In the context of maternal mortality, empowered women are more likely to claim their right to quality health care and education, and to understand the warning signs during pregnancy. In early 2008 the UNFPA launched the Maternal Health Thematic Fund (MHTF). This effort — UNFPA’s contribution to boost maternal and newborn health — aims to provide support to countries with a high maternal mortality burden to scale up proven interventions needed to save mothers and infants.

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  • Look at the work of Pro Mundo: In 2009, Promundo and partners co-hosted the “Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality” in Rio de Janeiro from March 30th – April 3rd. The event brought together 439 activists, researchers, and practitioners from 77 countries to share their experiences in challenging rigid gender norms and engaging men and boys in: reducing violence against women and girls; promoting sexual and reproductive health; HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; and fatherhood and care-giving.
  • @ Tracey, @ LIndsey and others: this quote makes the point, men too!
  • Member of the European Parliament Licia Ronzulli (R) of Italy holds her baby as she talks with fellow MEP Barbara Matera (L) during a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to mark the International Women's Day, March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

  • Happy International Women's Day to women all over the world, by Nahla Abdo #iwd
  • Bett and Cally join the celebrations and share with us
    Cally finds Samantha Jones really inspiring and Betts superwomen is her mother: ''she is a doctor, a golf player, a mother, has 3 dogs and is absolutely cool"
    "We both love girls night out. Dressing up, dancing, feeling good about ourselves...Oh, and we love watching Sex and the city.."

  • At Centre Pompidou in Paris, in Elles, a women-only exhibit I found this quote from the French artist Michelle Perrot’s “Preface a Une Historie des Femmes, est-elle Possible?”

    @ Tracey @Lindse et alia “It is not a matter of establishing some new territory for women, a peaceful reservation where they might desport themselves at ease without fear of contradiction; it is rather a question of changing the direction of the historical gaze, placing the relationship between the sexes at the center of concern.” French artist Michelle Perrot
  • "People are powerful. Weare powerful forces of life who can and have moved civilizations to great innovations and progress and to incomprehensible demise. That is the power of people" except from The Power of People: Four Kinds of People Who Can Change Your Life.
  • International Womens Day represents for us what is known as the collective power of women and who we are in our world. What makes us so powerful?
  • @Corinne Perkins, Indeed! Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have made a major contribution to women's empowerment through microfinance! The events in Bangladesh are distressing...
  • @ Tracey Red your blog, yes it's good. We could get seasick w all these waves.
  • @Katherine Govier, wonderful quote, thank you!
  • @Katherine - Wow. I think that quote describes one of the evolutions for me. i think when I was younger the desire for that peaceful reservation was bound up in my fiercer, more furious desire for economic and reproductive rights. But I am so much younger now and am no longer looking for that kind of peace.
  • Happy internatioal women's day to all, great to see such a vibrant and interesting set of issues being discussed and a pleasure to have the opportunity to take part. I would certainly endorse a number of points that have been made across the day. The issue of lack of representation of women at senior and board levels in organisations is clearly an issue that has to concern all of us not just as women, but across society as a whole. I would greatly endorse the work being done to include boys and men in the debate, their society is the poorer for this lack of inclusion. The future is in our hands, and it is only through engagement, education and communication that things will change. IWD is a great catalyst for this, but it is also about keeping momentum going and expressing our views around the year; in this way we may begin to see much needed change.
  • @Katherine @Lindsay - I remember an amazing conversation with a group of racially diverse women about what a "safe space" meant to us. Eye-opening. For me "safe space" had always meant that peaceful reservation away from contradiction but for others, that definition meant that white women were trying to create a space where they did not have to confront issues of white privilege. For them, "safe space" was a place where privilege could be named and challenged.
  • @Savita Kumra Welcome and Happy International Women's Day
  • Anybody under 30 care to tell us what you're doing for feminism today?
  • Canadian Journalist for Free Expression (CJFE) is celebrating the centenary of International Women's Day on March 8, 2011, by highlighting the work of four female journalists who have courageously worked under difficult and often dangerous conditions: Jila Baniyaghoub from Iran, Li Jianhong from China, Irina Khalip from Belarus and Jineth Bedoya Lima from Colombia, according to a press release.

  • Tell me more about that evolution because for so many women that I met they have an inner knowing of thier power but thier life challenges, the people in their lives, and the economic and political challenges have so 'beaten' them down that they wonder if they truly are powerful enough to speak up, speak out and then take action to create change, starting with themselves.
  • @SDavisAli Super excited to be joining the discussion! In 1970 my mother kept me home from kindergarten to support the ERA. We sent my dad and brother off to work and school and I can still remember standing at the front door with my mom not fully understanding why I was home but somehow understanding it was an important day for women. Really wishing that I had kept my daughter home from school today so that she'd could have a special memory of this historic day.
  • Also in Iran, women are not allowed to march:
  • From Julien Pellaux, Gender Specialist, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, UNFPA

    Engaging men and boys in addressing gender-based inequality and discrimination contributes to better health outcomes for everyone, including sexual and reproductive health, family planning, safe motherhood and HIV prevention. Men can be valuable allies in improving reproductive health and empowering women. UNFPA believes that engaging men is integral to any and all attempts to realise gender equality.

    Traditionally, engaging men and boys has aimed at improving maternal health and responsible fatherhood and promoting shared responsibilities. In recent years, the approach has evolved to engage men and boys to end violence against women, prevent HIV and develop programmes that support gender transformative approaches. Engaging men and boys initiatives should be implemented in tandem with women and girls’ empowerment programmes. UNFPA is targeting its efforts around broader engagement of men and boys on the gender equality agenda. To that end, it works with key stakeholders at the regional and global levels to appreciate the range of male actors, document practices and programmatic models that specifically target involvement of men and boys in the ICPD agenda, and develop networks of organizations and experts. Within the UN system, UNFPA is among the leaders in the work of engaging men on gender equality.

    UNFPA supports innovative and pioneering programmes aimed to apply the male involvement/engagement approach in addressing violence against women, and demonstrating UNFPA’s commitment to engaging youth in thinking critically about harmful stereotypes while working towards transforming gender norms in a culturally sensitive manner. For example, UNFPA with partners produced an electronic game as a vehicle for reaching boys, especially those 10 to 14 years of age, and young men as an advocacy tool to end violence against women. ‘Breakaway’ ( profoundly shifts beliefs, stereotypes, and attitudes on gender issues with games moving from a curative to a preventive approach. The games encourage change from within by presenting opportunities for the player to think critically about actions and reasons.

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  • From Susan Davis-Ali, President of Leadhership1On behalf of the Millennials at the Women's Center at St. Norbert College, I know that everyday is women's day for them. They carry the torch for feminism in a way that makes me so proud of them!
  • @dAlexander of UNFPA, great articles but what are we to make of the fact that UN Women, the new entity for accelerating advances in women’s human rights, is already facing a severe shortage of funding?
  • Listen to Tamsin Greig's insights to women's rights :)

  • @Tracey Mollins, totally fascinating and revealing... just as there are multiple feminisms in the world...
  • @Susan Davis-Ali - How can we all help this next generation of women carry this same torch? Thank you for your fabulous work!
  • This is really the ultimte question for us. Insipiring a new generation to understand who they are as powerful leaders in our world is critical. I agree!
  • @a.jordao If you were to ask one of my daughters (all under 30) what they were doing for feminism, they would ask for a definition of feminism. What is feminism now?
  • It's up to us to raise our girls and boys to be a significant force. Hello Dr Price! Great to see your post!
  • Photo from a Thomson Reuters / Dr. Verna event ... This tells a story!
  • By Liba Taylor

  • This evening I'm attending a conference in Paris organized by Ashoka, a global organization of social entrepreneurs on the theme of women's entrepreneurship. One of the questions is: how has being a woman helped you in your career? May I put that question out there?
  • Over 410 events today around the world to celebrate International Women's Day - and it was a privilege to be part of one here in London, on a sunny, blue sky, spring day.

    Led by the redoubtable Annie Lennox - truly a woman for our time – and organised by Women of the World, the Women on the Bridge event led us from Borough Market, behind Southwark Cathedral, near where Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims began their journey; and formerly the home of the ‘Winchester Geese’, as Fourteenth Century London women sex workers were known, and the legal London brothels controlled by the Bishop of Winchester.

    We continued along the Thames, past the old Clink prison, and the Globe theatre across the Millennium Bridge, white balloons floating across the sky in front of the white dome of St Pauls, past Waterloo Bridge - the only London Bridge built by women, and, they say, the strongest.

    School children in purple chanting for peace, 26 organisations, women from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Cameroon, Ireland, Paris, UK, Soroptimists, White Ribbon, IPPF, and other development NGOs, women from trade unions, women engineers and others from the arts calling for peace, for equality of opportunity, for justice.

    Their placards and banners proclaimed 'NO women NO peace', 'fill the 3.5m health worker gap', 'equal rights to health, education'.

    At the end Annie Lennox spoke briefly, asking 'why has feminism become an 'f word' that we all cringe from…at the end of the day what do we want - equal opportunity'. So simple, so logical, so fair and yet so hard to achieve.

    As a result of failing to achieve equal opportunity, we see the realities of young women's lives denied. In developing countries more than 60 million young women aged between 20 and 24, were married before they were 18, most often against their will; 2.5 million adolescent girls have unsafe illegal abortions a year, making up 46 percent of deaths from unsafe illegal abortion each year, and this is not surprising when we consider the impact of high levels of violence and intergenerational sex on young women, their lack of access to the modern contraception they desire, the lack of the right to decide whether or not to have sex or to have children.

    Girls make up the majority of those infected with HIV, in the developing world, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa, but again, is this so surprising when we consider that in that region only 19 percent of girls and young women have a correct understanding of HIV and its transmission.

    And yet recently, we have seen young people in 18 countries lead the reduction of HIV largely because they were able to access condoms, and the lifesaving information they needed as part of comprehensive sexuality education.

    In some countries such education is still seen as 'likely to wake the sleeping baby'- in other words to lead to early sexual activity. There is a body of research that now clearly demonstrates that this is not so, that to argue this is like blaming seat belts for car accidents. In states in India it has been suggested that CSE will corrupt the nation, and ruin the education system. Surely the truth is, as we have seen from studies in Nepal, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, that CSE, when truly comprehensive, teaches about human rights, HIV prevention, and gender equality, replaces ignorance with knowledge, fear with understanding, and enables young people to see each other as equals. Then they too can understand that 'Women's rights are human rights'.

    But some have scant respect for human rights, as is obvious every day, so at times we must take another line. In the words of the chair of Women of the World, here in London today, 'A world that is good for women is also good for men' - and of course for their children. Equal opportunity for women and girls is the key to resilient communities, growing national economies and a sustainable planet.

    If human rights and social justice cannot convince those opposed to equal opportunity, perhaps economic arguments, a little enlightened self interest and plain common sense can, so that all can finally agree, 'A world that is good for women is a world that is good for all.'

    It is 100 years since the first International Women's Day - surely that time has come?
  • Thanks Susan! This notion of our girls understanding who they really are burns like a fire in bones at times because they have so much energy and love for life but until they learn how to tap their limitless source of power, they will forever give into the "stuff" of life. What message could we are aa a group today send to our girls?Or even send to the women who are not on this blog who might be living an life of "unawareness"?
  • @Susan Auer What was the event?
  • @SDavis That is great about your mother an ERA day! My mother in the '50's used to tell me about Emily Murphy one of the "5 Persons" who managed to change legal definition of women in British Commonwealth so that they were persons not only in the matter of 'pains and penalties' but in the matter of 'rights and privileged'. Here's to mothers!
  • @Verna - is that me you are asking about the evolution? I know that sense of being beaten down you speak of. I feel it often myself. I think that finding a place to be with allies, a place where the weary can reproduce themselves is important. I think that when we know who our allies are and that they are always standing with us even when we cannot see them, we feel more powerful. A place free from "contradiction" does not rejuvenate me the way it used to. It makes me feel sleepy. I am not being prescriptive about this -- this is where I am now. I support women finding the ways that foster strength and voice for them. I think that different things work for different people at different times.
  • @all, are there only women participating in this discussion? Am I missing comments?
  • Organising for liberation, by Luam Kidane
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